Select Committee on European Communities Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Glenda Jackson CBE MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport

  The above proposal was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning.

  Your Explanatory Memorandum (EM), dated 14 March, raises several issues of concern to the Committee. First, we would like to know on what grounds you make the statement, in paragraph 15, that making IMO resolutions mandatory may jeopardise agreement in the IMO on future resolutions. Secondly, we would like to know whether any consequences arise from this proposal in respect of the extension of external competence. These are issues of some importance which are not dealt with in your EM.

  The Committee would appreciate clarification on these points. In the meantime, this letter maintains the scrutiny reserve.

7 May 1998

Letter from Glenda Jackson CBE MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 7 May requesting clarification on a number of issues referred to in my Explanatory Memorandum (EM 6344/98) of 14 March.

  I regret that my EM was less than clear on these points which have also been questioned by the House of Commons Select Committee on European Legislation (my letter of 23 April to Jimmy Hood refers).

  On your first point, there are a number of reasons why making IMO Resolutions mandatory in European law might make some, particularly non-EU, IMO members reluctant in practice to agree future Resolutions. As I indicated in the EM, IMO Resolutions are agreed by the membership of 155 on the basis that they are non-mandatory. They vary in the degree to which they specify clear standards. Some set out fairly precise guidelines which may reasonably be turned into mandatory requirements. Indeed, IMO itself has agreed to make some Resolutions mandatory, most notably the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. But many Resolutions are far less precise, giving only general guidance on good practice rather than setting out specific criteria. It is not appropriate to make such Resolutions mandatory, which is why we favour, in the EU, considering each possible mandatory application on a case by case basis. Given that harmonisation is often a key objective of Community legislation, many IMO members would be concerned if it began to appear that such Resolutions would be made mandatory in European law as a matter of course. That could imply that not only EU flagged ships, but also third flag ships operating to and from Community ports, might have to meet specific binding standards which their Administrations had not anticipated in agreeing to the related Resolutions in IMO. Our view is simply that we need to be alert to the issue in judging the chances of reaching agreement in the EU on a particular proposal.

  I should stress that we have no difficulties with making mandatory in the EU the particular Resolutions quoted in this proposal. All member states have insisted on tightening Article 13 to make it absolutely clear that new resolutions cannot be added through the Committee procedure.

  On your second point, the adoption of the Directive would give rise to the usual consequences for the Community's external competence. That is to say, in so far as the Directive lays down common rules in relation to ro-ro ferry and High Speed Craft safety the Community would acquire a corresponding exclusive external competence. This has been the case with a number of Directives adopted by the Community covering maritime safety for which IMO has developed world-wide standards (notably on seafarer training for example). As a consequence Member States lose the right to undertake obligations which would affect such common rules. However, the Community is not a member of IMO and the UK retains the right to speak and negotiate, subject to its obligation to reach a common position with the Commission and other Member States on matters within the Community's exclusive external competence. In practice this has not caused the UK to negotiate differently in the IMO.

  I hope that this clarifies the points you raised.

18 May 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Glenda Jackson CBE MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your letter dated 18 May on the above proposal which was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting on Thursday 4 June.

  The Committee found the explanation given concerning your objection to making IMO resolutions mandatory very unclear. We are, however, aware that the Government hopes to agree the proposal at the forthcoming Transport Council on 18 June and do not wish to hamper agreement on that date. Accordingly, this letter lifts the scrutiny reserve but we would appreciate further and hopefully more understandable explanation.

5 June 1998

Letter from Glenda Jackson CBE MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  You wrote on 5 June to John Battle MP, in response to my letter to you of 18 May about the above proposal. I am sorry for delaying this response, but I had understood that you intended to resend the letter directly to me.

  I regret that your Committee found unclear the explanation concerning our general objection to making International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Resolutions mandatory, but I am grateful to you for agreeing to lift the scrutiny reserve. I hope that this letter will clarify the issue.

  My Explanatory Memorandum and subsequent letter noted a point of general concern. In the IMO, Resolutions are negotiated and agreed on the basis that they are not mandatory. We do not have any fundamental opposition to making IMO Resolutions mandatory throughout the European Union, provided such proposals are fully debated and agreed by Ministers. Our concern is to avoid the situation where efforts to agree new Resolutions within IMO might be hampered by a presumption that by subsequent action within the European Union, these might automatically become mandatory.

  Within IMO, the way in which a Resolution is implemented is very much a matter for each member state. However, within the European Union, implementation is often made more prescriptive in an effort to achieve harmonisation. It is this difference of practice which might make member states more wary of agreeing new Resolutions within IMO. We have not yet seen any indication that this is a problem at this stage, but we will clearly need to remain alert to potential consequences as an active member of both IMO and the EU.

  I hope that this explains our concern, and puts it in context.

3 September 1998

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999